Australia placed a ban on asbestos nearly 20 years ago, however the automotive industry was only recently impacted by this policy due to health concerns. After an established car collector, Terry Healy, attempted to import a 1965 Ford Mustang and 1966 Shelby G.T. 350 into Australia, the Australian Border Force (ABF) has become more stringent. Upon a thorough investigation, numerous parts of these famed vehicles, including brake pads and exhaust gaskets, were found to contain asbestos.


As a result, over 50 classic cars, ranging from vintage Bentleys to Jaguars and Rolls-Royces, have been seized at the border for testing. As these cars were manufactured over 30 years ago when asbestos use was widespread, these cars are high-risk and their motor parts are highly suspicious. In response to Australia’s zero tolerance policy, the ABF has announced contaminated imports will result in hefty fines, forcing classic car dealers to halt shipments in order to avoid the repercussions.


Asbestos was once a fundamental component for car parts because it allowed them to sustain themselves under high friction, pressure and heat. Unfortunately, after using the mineral for centuries, research revealed that these fibers can be detrimental to human health once they become loose. As a result, the carcinogen was eventually phased out of the consumer market, however, countless products remain leftover worldwide. These materials were typically built before the mid-1990s and include:


  • Brake pads and linings

  • Insulation

  • Clutches

  • Gaskets

  • Plastic parts

  • Mufflers

  • Hoodliners

  • Heat seals

  • Engines

  • Wheel rims

Australia was once the largest consumer of asbestos worldwide, and has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma, a life-threatening malignancy, as a result today. These cases are largely attributed to occupational exposure and mechanics and vehicle restorers fall into the group of workers who are at high-risk. While asbestos is safe when in good condition, the very nature of this profession can evoke asbestos fibers to become airborne and inhaled, which can lead to a number of asbestos-related diseases.


Although the mineral has been banned in Australia for over 15 years, any vehicle manufactured before 2003 is likely to contain these fibers and workers have been found to be most vulnerable to exposure when dealing with brake parts, gaskets, and clutches. In order to combat this hazard, it’s important to ensure all automotive parts are labeled asbestos-free before beginning any maintenance.


The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency provides an extensive guide on how to protect yourself from exposure including, but not limited to, investing in a cartridge half face mask (P2), wearing disposable gear, avoiding power tools and compressed air, and guidelines on how to

properly dispose of contaminated equipment. We encourage anyone at risk to take a look into these prevention practises in order to ensure their health and safety is taken care of on the job.



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